At a major sale of Impressionist and modern art on October 28 at Sotheby’s New York, two works by Giorgio de Chirico and Man Ray from a private collection will head to auction. Both works have never come to auction before, and both could bring new artist records. The works, which will go on view at Sotheby’s on October 21, will hit the block in the same auction as seven deaccessioned pieces from the Brooklyn Museum that were announced last week.
Giorgio de Chirico’s large-scale vertical canvas Il Pomeriggio di Arianna (Ariadne’s Afternoon), 1913, depicts the story of Ariadne and Theseus from Greek mythology, and is painted to make the heroine appear as a monument. The painting is estimated at $10 million–$15 million. Il Pomeriggio di Arianna is part of an eight-work series, five works of which reside in prominent museum collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The other three, including the present work, are privately owned. Widely exhibited, the work was included in the artist’s traveling 1982 survey at the the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate in London. The seller acquired the work in 2001.
The second major work from the consignment is Man Ray’s Black Widow (Nativity), 1915. Standing at 70⅛ inches by 34 inches, the vertical large-scale canvas depicts an abstract black figure with arms raised against a similarly flat geometric composition. The work is estimated at $5 million–$7 million. Completed the same year the artist met the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp, the work was held in Man Ray’s personal collection until 1953. It was first in the collection of William N. Copley, who acquired it from the artist in 1953, and then went to the collection of Paris-based art historian and Man Ray expert Marion Meyer in the 1970s. It changed hands several times again before the current owner bought it in 2001.
“Both masterpieces are the epitome of museum-quality painting and provide a unique glimpse into the profound early output of these two visionary artist,” said Lisa Dennison, Sotheby’s Americas chairman.
De Chirico’s current auction record was set in 2009 by Il ritornante (ca. 1919), which came from the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge and sold at Christie’s for $14.1 million. Man Ray’s geometric canvas Promenade (1916) sold for $5.9 million at Sotheby’s in New York against an estimate of $4 million–$6 million in November 2013. Like the present work, Promenade was completed after the 1913 Armory Show, where the artist drew inspiration from new European styles. It marked a critical shift in Man Ray’s development of a flat planar surface in his paintings.
“Both works stand apart from their contemporaries and the prevailing Cubo-Futurist style of the time, and were forging new artistic boundaries that would deeply influence the Surrealist movement– underscored by their preoccupation with dream-like visuals and hard-edged geometry,” said Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s head of impressionist and modern art evening sales in New York.